Indies in L.A.: Alpha Pup and Not Not Fun talk about the thriving L.A. scene

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In an era when a high-speed Internet connection and impeccable taste is all that a small record label needs to eke out a living, is there still value in being near the source? The people tending to Los Angeles’ growing constellation of modest but healthy independent imprints seem to think so. The Times profiles the ways in which labels in L.A. are adapting to the changing landscape in a Sunday feature.

‘I’ve lived here my entire life,’ said Kevin Moo, who as Daddy Kev has been making beats for area rappers since 1997. He also once worked for Sony and now runs Alpha Pup, a successful taste-making electronic music label based downtown. ‘I’ve seen scenes come and go, been involved with independent music since I was a teenager, and I’ve never been more excited.’


There’s plenty of reason for his enthusiasm. Independent labels have been on the preferred side of the general leveling that has been taking place in the music industry over the last few years, and those based in L.A. have a few advantages.

For one, community. U.K. music magazine NME published its annual ‘50 Best New Bands’ list earlier this week, and L.A.-area artists held a whopping 11 of those slots, from the Manimal Vinyl-signed girl grunge group War Paint, to Long Beach’s psych-folk wunderkind Avi Buffalo, to Eagle Rock surf-pop act Best Coast, who came in at No. 1.

Said Amanda Brown, co-owner of the boutique cassette and vinyl imprint Not Not Fun and the former Pocahaunted band mate of Best Coast singer Bethany Cosentino: ‘There’s a beautiful convergence of all-ages spaces that have opened their doors to the city, and people from every musical pocket are showing up to play. It’s becoming a huge thing because small places allow it to happen. The idea of ‘making it’ in L.A. now means such a different thing.’

In this Sunday’s Calendar feature, we get to the bottom of what ‘making it’ means now to L.A.'s independent labels, speaking to a new generation of scrappy executives like Dangerbird Records founder Jeff Castelaz and Stones Throw manager Eothen ‘Egon’ Alapatt.

For most, it’s all about diversification -- vertically integrating various musician-friendly services, which seems like a page borrowed from the old Hollywood-based industry. Specifically, Alapatt speaks on the benefits of licensing music to film and television -- and he should know, considering that rising Stones Throw soul singer Aloe Blacc recently scored the theme song to HBO’s comedy-drama ‘How to Make It in America.’

Download that song, Blacc’s ‘I Need a Dollar’ below, and read about it in Sunday’s paper.

Aloe Blacc - ‘I Need a Dollar’ [MP3]

-- Chris Martins